a red, yellow, and black pole on a beach next to the ocean

The Florida Keys is hiring for a brand-new position leading Monroe County’s multimillion-dollar tourism agency: president and CEO of the Tourist Development Council.

It pays $210,000 to $250,000, but this job comes with pages filled with duties and responsibilities, high expectations and a new public scrutiny created after the fallout from failed audits.  

Just a few duties listed in the job description assembled by the executive recruitment firm SearchWide Global include: preparing the budget, managing invoices and expenditures, developing marketing strategies, media relations, recruiting employees, working with the chambers of commerce Keyswide and “oversight of every aspect of the organization’s operations.”

Also, the TDC president/CEO must handle crises from “hurricanes, health-related incidents, environment-related incidents, social unrest, mass shootings or policy-generated travel boycotts, among others,” the job description reads. 

What’s not in the glossy, 8-page job ad prepared by SearchWide Global is that the last TDC director was fired amid a series of scathing audits. 

In the first TDC audit released Oct. 31, 2023, County Clerk Kevin Madok’s office found instances of questionable spending, noncompliance with policy and failures in following financial protocols.

Under pressure from the Board of County Commissioners, the TDC board in March fired marketing director Stacey Mitchell by a unanimous vote. 

Mitchell’s attorney, Zachary Z. Zermay, told Keys Weekly he’s putting together a wrongful termination lawsuit against Visit Florida Keys, the nonprofit charged with handling the use of the tourism development taxes on lodging and hotel rooms, known locally as the “bed tax.” 

The TDC’s millions come from taxes paid by overnight tourists who stay at all lodging establishments in the county. 

Searchwide Global has not yet provided the county search committee with the names of any candidates or applicants.

“They’re receiving résumés,” said Roman Gastesi, the former county administrator who serves on the selection committee.  “The job has evolved, it’s grown.”

County commissioner Jim Scholl, of Key West, chairs the selection committee. Other members are Daniel Samess, Laura Ciampa, Jodi Weinhofer, Joshua Tomai and Diane Schmidt. 

They next meet on Friday, June 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Marathon Government Center. There will also be a Zoom option to join and watch the meeting.

“I want to see them all, every applicant’s résumé,” Gastesi said.

Gastesi, who has worked in Monroe County government for 15 years and recently retired as county administrator, said the TDC outgrew the top-boss marketing director job that Mitchell held. 

“When I started they had about $13-$14 million in revenues annually,” he said. “After (the COVID pandemic shutdown) they’re probably going to level off in the $60-$70 million range. 

“It’s tough to find one person with a marketing background who can also run a $60 million operation,” Gastesi said. 

“That’s where it was unfair for Stacey,” Gastesi said of Mitchell. “She’s a good marketer. She had never run a $60-$70 million operation. That was totally unfair. It outgrew her.”

Minimum qualifications for the president/CEO job start with a bachelor’s degree and at least 10 years’ experience at the executive level.

At the moment, the TDC president/CEO is the only position being advertised. But Gastesi said the agency needs at least one more executive to focus on the financial side. 

“If they try to combine the two, they’re going to have the same problem,” Gastesi said. “They’re going to need a leader – an executive director – and probably going to need a CFO.”

Gwen Filosa
Gwen Filosa is The Keys Weekly’s Digital Editor, and has covered Key West news, culture and assorted oddities since she moved to the island in 2011. She was previously a reporter for the Miami Herald and WLRN public radio. Before moving to the Keys, Gwen was in New Orleans for a decade, covering criminal courts for The Times-Picayune. In 2006, the paper’s staff won the Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news and the Public Service Medal for their coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She remains a devout Saints fan. She has a side hustle as a standup comedian, and has been a regular at Comedy Key West since 2017. She is also an acclaimed dogsitter, professional Bingo caller and a dedicated Wilco fan.